S.L. v. Upland Unified Sch. Dist.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 04-02-2014
  • Case #: 12-55715; 12-56796
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Christen for the Court; Circuit Judges Pregerson and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, a child can be reimbursed for private schooling if the private schooling is shown to be appropriate; a motion for attorneys fees must be timely filed.

S.L. had an intellectual disability, and her parents were not happy with the public school’s educational program and removed her from the public school district (“district”) and placed her in a private school (“OLA”). The district, as part of a settlement agreement, promised to reimburse S.L. $18,000 for educational expenses. In return, S.L. agreed to Individual Educational Plan assessments (“IEPs”) by the district during the year. The IEPs never took place, and S.L. filed a due process suit against the district for failing to meet S.L.’s parents about the IEPs and, alternatively, for failing to conduct the agreed-upon IEPs. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) concluded that the district prevailed on the first issue, and S.L. largely prevailed on the second issue. Therefore, S.L. was entitled to only “some reimbursement” for the costs of the private school. S.L. appealed and the district court upheld the ALJ’s decision. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit first held that placing S.L. in OLA was appropriate because the school provided S.L. with a special curriculum, aides, support, accommodations, testing materials, and socialization. Because this placement was appropriate, S.L. was entitled to reimbursement for the cost of tuition. The panel also held that S.L. should be reimbursed for transportation expenses because it was necessary to S.L.’s education at OLA. Third, the panel found that S.L. should not receive reimbursement for her private aides because S.L.’s mother did not provide documentation regarding aides’ wages, and therefore failed to prove the aides’ pay rate and hours worked. Last, the panel held that S.L. was not entitled to attorneys’ fees because S.L.’s motion was untimely under Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(A). AFFIRMED in part and REVERSED in part.

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